The official day one!
Sixty-five Trailblazer cars will rally the Outback Queensland! The first thing on the schedule is having an epic breakfast at Baldy Top Lookout just 7.4km outside of the town.
Part of the Grey Range, Baldy Top is one of the most elevated points in South West Queensland, containing caves, crevices, and boulder formations that were created naturally over million of years. The climb is an easy ten minutes. The view however, is a great reminder that we are just a small fraction of this vast landscape.
After having a simple breakfast at the bottom of the hill, we officially start our rally. It’s going to be a big day – 300km to Windorah via Eromanga.
Reset speedometer to 000.
The road condition is pretty good in Outback Queensland. Other than a few marked areas, it’s ‘bitumen’ all the way. (For non-Australian English speakers: bitumen is also known as asphalt.)
104.0km: welcome to Eromanga!
Phone coverage: no
Eromanga is basically a hotel/ pub, police station, and a museum. But this small town is famous on several counts. It’s the furthest town in Australia from any sea. It produces 60 million liters of oil per year. This is where IOR (Inland Oil Refinery) was born. Opal is also found near here. It has Australia’s largest dinosaurs. Near Eromanga they have unearthed some most exciting bones. It is a small but exciting place.
We toured the Living History Centre which incorporates a museum, object theater, and hundreds of historic photos and stories. The best part is the movie in the theater room. This 40-minuite movie covers many topics about the region that I mentioned: oil, dinosaur bones, opal, and farming.
Next door, we met Robyn Mackinzie, a search and special project manager at the up and coming Eromanga Natural History Museum (http://www.enhm.com.au/index.htm). She’s dedicated to researching and collecting dinosaur and other fossil bones in the region. We got to touch megafauna bones. Now they are building a new natural history museum which will contain Australia’s largest dinosaur, nicknamed Cooper. There are still vast amount of bones in this area. We just have to come back to see the museum.
Meet Giggles. He’s an opal miner in Eromanga, originally from NSW. He is one of those Outback characters that you won’t forget. He’s done all sorts of things in his life, from running a hunting business in Victoria to mining. He got into opal mining because of the unique bling of these precious gems. “It’s really weird. It’s like finding money from the ground, you know?” he said. I guess he’s right. I asked where his mine was and he said “Oh, just down the road. About 80km?” In the Outback, 80km is just ‘down the road’. I wanted to pick up an opal as a souvenir but it was too expensive. I asked if he sold a lot, and he said he doesn’t try too hard to sell them. “It’s better than a bank!” he said. The remaining opals will be his retirement fund.
I have so much to say about Eromanga, so I’ll save it for now. Please tune in for the upcoming post.
Reset speedometer to 000.
72.5km: The Great Dog Fence.
The Great Dog Fence, or Dingo Fence, was built to keep dingoes (wild dogs now considered pests) away from the sheep flocks of southern Queensland. It stretches 5,614km (2,500km long in Queensland) from Queensland to South Australia. Don’t forget to close it after you pass through. Keep those dogs out!
196.7km: Cooper’s Creek.
We stopped at Cooper’s Creek, one of the most famous rivers in Outback Queensland. It’s a short break for smoko and a Barcoo Gully Cup competition. A gigantic jigsaw puzzle and wooden block shoes relay will determine who will take the honorable Barcoo Gully Cup. A long story short; we won (of course).
Phone coverage : yes
We are camping at the Windorah Sportsground and Tennis Club. It’s the first night I sleep in a swag! We were given tents, but decided not to bother pitching it. Swags are good enough. Swag is an Australian portable sleeping bag. Traditionally it’s a bundle of belongings rolled up to be carried by a foot traveler in the bush. Modern swag is a waterproof canvas sleeping compartment that is sometimes insect-proof. All swags come with a foam mattress, and can comfortably be slept in with the addition of a pillow and blanket. I thought I would feel claustrophobic when I zipped it all the way around. On the contrary, it felt like mother’s arms. I slept like a baby.
Before falling asleep in the swag for the first time, we had dinner and drinks at Windorah Star bush pub. Australia’s pop legend John Paul Young shined the stage by his hit song, “Love is in the Air”.
Good night, for 6am breakfast tomorrow. Mmm… swag…
Tomorrow’s another big day.
Total trip distance: 594km
Final destination: Windorah
Word of the day: bitumen, smoke, swag